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Human rights standards key to Act changes

Human rights standards key to Immigration Act changes

Proposed changes to the Immigration Act must observe human rights standards to ensure a fair process is used, the Human Rights Commission told the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee yesterday.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said the Commission recognised that immigration to New Zealand does not exist as of right.

"Although a sovereign state exercises control over the passage of people across its borders - and such controls mainly focus on the movement of non-citizens - New Zealand should be able, in its immigration law and policy, to demonstrate that it observes international and domestic human rights standards," Ms Noonan says.

"New Zealand's immigration objectives must be achieved in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner. This is particularly important when the scheme proposed in the Bill - namely introducing invitations to apply for residence - is discretionary and without access to review or appeal procedures.

"New Zealand is the first country in the world to use this scheme and teething problems which will require reconsideration are inevitable," Ms Noonan says.

The Commission's recommendations focus on the observance of the principles of natural justice to provide a fair, non-discriminatory process; an ability to challenge decisions where necessary; and the importance of monitoring and training.

Specifically:
· Transparency and open process through creation and publication of all relevant Government Residence Policy rules and criteria;
· Consideration of the possibility of providing reasons for declining "expressions of interest" in receiving an invitation to apply for residence;
· Monitoring and review of policy by NZIS - with results made publicly available;
· Thorough training of NZIS officials on how to apply the new processes including their responsibilities under human rights law;
· Ability to review service delivery, specifically the processing of visa applications;
· Examination of the appropriateness of allowing access to judicial review in particular immigration circumstances.

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